Quick Monday night Dolphins injury update:
The injuries suffered by two Miami cornerbacks on Saturday were not especially serious, but Miami will be cautious with both. Jamar Taylor has a quadriceps injury but no structural damage. Bobby McCain has an ankle sprain and has been wearing protection on it, but it's not a high-ankle sprain and there was no break.
Both will be on the team this season, so there's no urgency for them to play Saturday if they're still in discomfort.
The reason Olivier Vernon sat out Saturday was because of a groin injury.
Branden Albert (knee) and DeVante Parker (foot) hope to do more work this week.
Jason Fox will need to pass a concussion protocol test to be able to practice this week, as Armando notes.
The Dolphins were off today and resume practicing Tuesday. But the team has gone to regular season media rules, meaning open locker-room but no viewing of practice beyond the first 30 minutes.
Usually, when a team is on pace for 95-plus losses and is in serious contention for the worst record in baseball, major changes are expected.
But if there’s one thing the Marlins have been steadfast about, it’s this:
“We are only one or two pieces away to go with these really talented kids,” manager Dan Jennings insisted.
Team president David Samson put it this way: “The core of our team we still believe in. The core is here. It’s a crazy game. Baseball is a hard sport. You can’t account for injuries. You can’t account for performance. You just put together a team you think can win.”
Which all leads to this question: Should the Marlins (50-74 entering Monday) really be so committed to this core?
Yes, injuries have been a major factor. But even before Giancarlo Stanton was sidelined in late June with a hand injury, the Marlins were lagging well below .500. And even with Stanton, this lineup’s production was mediocre.
So why are the Marlins convinced this core is good enough to be a playoff contender?
“The record, in our mind, doesn’t change the evaluation,” Samson said. “It’s hard not to believe [you have a playoff-contending core when] you have one of the top three pitchers and one of the top three position players in baseball on one team. That’s hard to find. We may be the only team that has that.”
Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said: “You look at those position players. You’re talking about 23, 23, 25, 24 --- young players who are going through the ups and downs of a major-league career. There’s no less confidence in any of them."
The Marlins plan to add two starting pitchers this offseason. That’s a good first step. But they also appear committed to this starting lineup, with the only questions being center field (more on that later) and first base. Justin Bour and Derek Dietrich are the internal first-base options internally, but an outside solution remains a possibility.
But the results suggest the Marlins need more hitters that not only are run-producers but can consistently get on base. Consider:
### The Marlins are 28th in runs, just seven ahead of Atlanta, which entered tonight having scored the fewest runs in baseball.
### Even though they play in a spacious park that should lend itself to doubles, the Marlins rank last in baseball in that category, and by a wide margin.
“It’s been the frustration with our overall offense ---- doubles are a part of it,” Hill said. “The bigger surprise is our [inability] to score runs consistently,” Hill said recently.
### Their 89 homers rank 29th, though that would be much higher if Stanton hadn’t been sidelined since late June.
### Though the Marlins are 10th in average at .256, they’re 20th in on-base percentage and 28th in slugging percentage.
“Our average with runners in scoring position is well below our batting average and you would hope that would level out and it has not,” Samson said.
### Even when Stanton was healthy, the Marlins didn’t have enough behind him. Their No. 5 hitter has driven in the fewest runs in baseball.
But how to improve this lineup is a quandary; the Marlins don’t have much to offer in a trade, considering the Marlins’ limited remaining assets in their minor-league system after dealing Andrew Heaney, Anthony DeSclafani and others last winter.
The free agent first-base class is awful, with Baltimore’s Chris Davis and Milwaukee’s Adam Lind ($8 million team option) the only above-average corner infielders potentially available. None of the other free agent first basemen (led by declining Mike Napoli) are necessarily any better than Bour or Dietrich.
And even though the Marlins would benefit from having a better run producer than Martin Prado (38 RBI) at third base, trading him would be very risky, because there’s no clear replacement available in free agency.
The Marlins justifiably are committed to Dee Gordon at second base, Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop (both under team control through 2018) and J.T. Realmuto at catcher. Thankfully, there’s no thought to dealing Stanton.
So that leaves two areas to improve offensively beyond first base: left field or center field. Christian Yelich has been a disappointment; his 29 RBI ranking among the lowest for left fielders. But the Marlins believe he’s going to be a quality player and lean strongly against trading him.
Marcell Ozuna’s situation is more complicated. There’s some thought internally to trading him for a starting pitcher under team control and signing a free agent outfielder to replace him.
But several Marlins officials still believe he’s going to be a very good player, despite the regression from 23 homers and 85 RBI in 153 games in 2014 to six and 29 in 85 games this season, with a 5 ½ week minor-league stint recently ending.
“Sometimes the best decision when you’re dealing with young players is just let them continue to grow and become the players [you expect],” Hill said. “You don’t become a perennial contender overnight. There’s a process. There’s patience involved, because you’re dealing with human beings.”
Here’s one thing that could help the team’s offensive numbers: The Marlins are giving serious thought to bringing in the walls at Marlins Park and perhaps shortening the fences. “It’s under discussion,” Samson said.
But at some point –- next year, specifically –- this core needs to produce, or it will be time to rethink management’s commitment to them, if it isn’t time already with a couple of them. And outside-the-box thinking will be needed this winter.
"We need a lot of changes," Stanton said.
### UM coach Art Kehoe named his likely offensive line starters on WQAM today and there was only one surprise: Sunny Odugwu ahead of KC McDermott at right tackle. The line, from left to right: Trevor Darling, Alex Gall, Nick Linder, Danny Isidora and Odogwu.
Kehoe said McDermott, Hunter Knighton, Joe Brown and Hunter Wells should get playing time off the bench.
### Some NFL and UM people believe junior Artie Burns can become a high-end NFL prospect if he puts everything together, and Al Golden is pushing him so hard to be great that Burns admitted: “Sometimes I want to fight with him. But I know he just wants me to get better. He’s always head-butting me [figuratively] to get better. I’ve been working on everything, looking at tape of Darrelle Revis, Patrick Peterson.”
### UM’s concern about having only three experienced cornerbacks has been eased because freshman Sheldrick Redwine has been so impressive in practice. “Physical, long arms and great instincts,” receiver Tyre Brady said.
### Look for Herb Waters to replace Indianapolis Colts receiver Phillip Dorsett as UM’s best deep threat. He timed as UM’s fastest player, with a 4.36 in the 40. Burns and Jermaine Grace tied for second-fastest at 4.38. Gus Edwards timed as UM’s fastest running back.
### The Dolphins released receiver Michael Preston after it became clear he wouldn't make the team. Miami has 89 players now, one under the league maximum for this week. Teams must get down to 75 players by Sept. 1 and 53 by Sept. 5.
### How serious are the Dolphins about their incredibly detailed sports sciences program? Dolphins executive Mike Tannenbaum told Sirius Radio's Alex Marvez that when Dolphins players come off the field, all 90 are given “custom-made” recovery drinks.
The Dolphins later told me they do indeed prepare 90 different drinks for 90 different players because each of their body compositions are different.
### Hassan Whiteside averaged just 23.8 minutes last season, 26th among centers, and Heat assistant Dan Craig cautions that number might not increase much.
“You might see his minutes jump up when we're playing Andre Drummond or DeAndre Jordan. But if we're playing a team that likes to play small ball, you'll probably see his minutes around 20 or 25,” Craig said.
Whiteside recently tweeted a picture of himself working out at 3:40 in the morning at American Airlines Arena. The Heat wants to play faster, and “he can play that game,” Craig said. “That's one thing we're challenging him with his skill development this summer and he's done a good job. He sees where the game is going. It’s small ball so he's adjusting as well.”
### Twitter: @flasportsbuzz